What's Jony Ive Been Doing?

A blog about business and economics.
March 26 2012 9:16 AM

What's Jony Ive Been Doing?

Sir Jony Ive, senior vice president at Apple
Sir Jony Ive, senior vice president at Apple

Photograph by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images.

Here's a question that's been lingering in my mind since it became clear that the new iteration of the iPad would basically look the same as the iPad 2—what is it that Sir Jony Ive, the world's most famous industrial designer, has been doing lately?

When it turned out that Apple would produce an iPhone 4S in an identical case to the iPhone 4, a lot of pundits immediately pronounced it a disappointment. Apple's supporters noted that it had all-upgraded internals and were vindicated when it turned out to be a monster success as a product. The new iPad is even more clearly an upgrade with its high-resolution screen. But it is true that Apple is famous in part as a company that doesn't just engineer software and chips but designs macroscopic physical objects that look cool. The original iteration of the MacBook Air, for example, was kind of a dud as a product (more recent iterations are great, and I use one every day), but it had that iconic look from the beginning that now Windows laptop makers are scrambling to imitate under the Ultrabook heading. Yet at this point it seems like it's been forever since Apple revamped the look of one of its main product lines. They're succeeding with this strategy, so maybe I shouldn't expect anything different, but that kind of stagnation would be surprising to me. Just like in the world of fashion, in any design space there's never a stable, one best design. You can't patent your basic look, so if you stick with it too long imitators come out of the woodwork and suddenly your products look generic. Quality design needs to be always changing and always innovating—churning, the skeptics would say—to stay ahead of the less-innovative brands. So I have to believe there's either some major revamp of the basic look of something in the works, but no one in the tech press seems to be talking about this.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.


The World

How Canada’s Shooting Tragedies Have Shaped Its Gun Control Politics

Where Ebola Lives Between Outbreaks

Gunman Killed Inside Canadian Parliament; Soldier Shot at National Monument Dies

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Paul Farmer: Up to 90 Percent of Ebola Patients Should Survive

Is he right?


“I’m Not a Scientist” Is No Excuse

Politicians brag about their ignorance while making ignorant decisions.


Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea 

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 6:30 PM The Tragedies That Have Shaped Canada's Gun Politics
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 4:10 PM Skinny Mark Wahlberg Goes for an Oscar: The First Trailer for The Gambler
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.